Can the iPad Air 2 replace a laptop?
A week without a laptop is one thing. A week without a laptop and restricted to using an operating system I have never used before – that is something else entirely.
It was started with a challenge. “Use the the new iPad air2 for a week and see if you can do everything without touching a laptop”. I accepted and from the moment the iPad Air 2 was fully charged, the challenge was on.
My anxiety levels were at an all time high. Never used iOS before. Never had an iCloud or an iTunes accounts and somewhat sceptical it or I could cope, I dived straight in to set up the iPad:
First Task: Documents
We all have different needs and different priorities. For me, accessing my documents was priority number one. If that failed, then I would have to admit defeat right off the bat. I needed my docs, my reports, my notes and the timing of this challenge also also coincided with my end of the month billing run – so that was added pressure too.
I downloaded the Office Apps – Word, Excel, PowerPoint.I discovered that you don’t need an Office 365 subscription as I don’t use OneNote, Publisher or Access. A smart move by Microsoft I must admit. So now that I could create and edit documents, the anxiety level started to subside.
But still had the issue of how to access my info.
I never owned an Apple device so I didn’t have iCloud storage that would magically just make the previously saved data appear, but I do use cloud storage on several system including Google Drive, Dropbox and Onedrive. I thought this is where the first real hurdle would be and as why would Apple work with rival systems?
I was wrong.
Within minutes of signing into the various accounts (once I remembered the passwords) , I was opening and closing documents, editing, copy-and-pasting and doing everything I would normally do on my PC.
I did learn that Onedrive and Dropbox integrate very well with Office 365 apps such as Word and Excel. However, files from Google Drive needed more attention. To make files available when the iPad is not connected to the internet you have to switch the Keep on Device option to on. It then puts a safety pin underneath the document. To find it again, you then open Google Drive app and from the menu on the left select On Device. I realised that Google docs require the Google DOCS application and not to rely on the Microsoft apps.
I am also not a big friend of soft-keyboards as I prefer the tap tap of the real keys when working on document. I hooked up my Houdt keyboard via Bluetooth to the iPad and everything just operated. No specialised Apple only keyboard was required.
Keyboard was a must when writing my Blog posts and used the WordPress app. I also edited my pics using Snapseed and a Dictaphone app to record interviews.
Second Task: Email
The next task was to get me connected to the world. I started off setting up emails. I run various accounts on multiple servers and each has their own finicky setting for encryption and security. All of them worked. I could change the inbound server, the outbound server, change the ports and change the encryption settings.
My Gmail account just needed my username and password and nothing was required beyond that.
It did take me a while to get used to how the mail client worked and for the first time user did not leave a great mail experience feeling. Swiping to left and right reveals items such as Mark as read, Flag and Archive. Tapping on More show option to Reply, Forward, Move to Junk etc. This was somewhat fiddly and required some getting used to.
The search facility didn’t always bring up what I was looking for and I couldn’t find a way to search for a word in just the subject line or search for the word in just the body.
The one item that I really needed was the ability to set different mails to be fetched at different intervals. For example: I wanted my work mail to fetched every 5 minutes, but my Gmail every 30 minutes. This is not possible. The quickest time to schedule a mail push is 15 minutes and is a global setting for all accounts that don’t have the Push facility.
Third Task: Social Apps and the Internet
Email aside, social application like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn worked perfectly fine. First timers like me found out quickly that Instagram doesn’t render so well on the large screen, so the Flow application is a better option.
I installed Chrome as this linked up with my Google account and so my history, bookmarks, searches etc. all synchronised flawlessly. However, there doesn’t seem to be a way to set Chrome to be the default browser as the iPad reverts to Safari whenever any hyperlinks are clicked. Nonetheless, Chrome worked great scoring a respectable 427 out of 555 points on the HTML5test.com website that tests the browser for its HTML5 capabilities. Safari browser scored a higher 440 point out of 555 on the same site. Overall browsing the web was great.
I run several reports which require intensive processing power. Using the iPad I was able to connect to those servers and run the reports. Nothing failed and it worked exactly he same as if I did it from my PC.
Fourth Task: Calendar and Contacts
I use Google as my base. Regardless of which device I use, I make sure it can synchronise to Gmail so that way everything is in synch. I make a change on one device, the rest are just updated.
The iPad air 2 was able to link to Gmail perfectly. Calendar was in synch and all my meetings and appointments just magically appeared. I was able to send meeting request and able to amend appointments. These were pushed back out to Gmail so my phone had the latest appointment information.
Same applied to my Contacts. As I made a change, the iPad air 2 was updated. Any changes made on the iPad were replicated back to Gmail.
Fifths Task: Entertainment
Anything purchased from iTunes works like a dream. Simply selected the music and movies, paid and they appeared on the iPad. Quality of the movies was perfect even in direct sunlight and the speaker was loud enough in a relatively quiet room. In a noisier environment, headphones were better suited.
“Unofficial” music and movies were a hit and miss. Some worked and some didn’t.
Touch ID : Touch ID was a win. Simply set up your fingers on the reader which is the only button there is on the device. To unlock the iPad, I just placed my finger on it from virtually every angle and it would unlock. I also used it to save me having to type my password every time I downloaded an app from the store. Just a heads-up to fellow lefties out there: set up fingers on both the right and the left hand . I discovered that holding the iPad in portrait I used the right hand but when I had the iPad in landscape mode in the cover, the scanner/ button was on the wrong side. So set up both and regardless which way you use it there is a registered finger nearby to unlock it.
Battery: The battery lasted long enough. Some days I would get 9 hours on a single charge, other days I would get 6 hours. It all depends on how much power drawing application I was using and just how much Wi-Fi and 3G data I was consuming. Overall I was confident to leave the house without the charging cable.
Camera: The camera worked ok. There are no setting to play with and for most people that would be fine as the photos snapped were great in good lighting conditions. I was looking for some additional settings like ISO or White Balance but these were nowhere to be found. Slo-mo was a lot of fun and besides being “THAT guy” taking videos with the iPad, I had shot some cool vids with the device.
Settings: I was not loving the opening and closing of apps just to get to settings. If I am in the Mail application and wanted to add a signature, I should be able to access Mail setting there instead of closing Mail and finding the Setting icon.
So the question: can the iPad Air 2 replace a laptop?
My biggest fears came to be.
I support several client networks and systems. I received a call about a broken system whilst I was out obviously without my laptop. This was the ultimate test. I used the coffee shop’s Wi-Fi to access my client’s network using a Remote Desktop application (Teamviewer). I discovered where the issue was and used an FTP app to download the code file to the iPad. I then used a text code editor (PowerCoder) to edit the code and then re-uploaded the file. Problem fixed. Ordered another shot of espresso.
Over the week, I discovered that the only item I could not do on the iPad was video editing. For that I need serious graphics and processing power and the all important mouse for those fine adjustments. Everything else, I became comfortable taking only the iPad out for regular meetings where I wouldn’t have to do a lot of typing. Going forward, for the meetings/ interviews I would still take a laptop as I need that keyboard for fast typing and I cant balance my Bluetooth keyboard on my lap. Perhaps I should look at a cover that simply comes with Bluetooth keyboard which might work?
So in summary:
I keep hearing the term “locked into the eco system”. This is term techies throw around to explain that if you run an Apple MAC and an iPad and an Apple TV and an iPhone then you live in the Apple worlds ie Apple ecosystem. Everything works perfectly with each other in the same eco system so you shouldn’t introduce a foreign object like Android, Windows or BlackBerry.
What I discovered is that technically that is true. However, I ran a Microsoft Office application on the Apple iPad Air tablet while accessing my documents stored on Google Drive. I also ran Blend software on the iPad to control my BlackBerry Passport and that worked like a dream too. The only items I see “locked to eco-systems” are apps. If you spend money on an app in the one store, you have to download and pay again for the same app in the other store (although I see some vendors offer a one price across different platforms.)
Looking back over the week I noticed how my “portable life” has become less cluttered. Instead of a laptop bag with cables, charges, notebooks and other “stuff”, I started travelling light – just the iPad and the phone.
Still new to the iOS environment and perhaps there are setting I did not see but the above is how I experienced my #Everythingin1 challenge and look forward to discovering more in the future.